by Patricia Morin Haggerty
My sisters and I were cleaning out my mom’s house following her passing. When I opened her cedar chest, I made an amazing discovery. My First Communion veil was there and still in good condition! I had no idea that my mother had kept it all these years. The discovery brought me back to my First Communion day at St. Anthony’s Church.
I still have a picture of me standing in front of the altar, hands clasped in prayer and wearing my white dress and that veil. There are moments of that day that I remember distinctly. I can recall processing into the church from the school and feeling the tiny ribbons from the veil brush my cheek. I can remember going back to church in the afternoon and kneeling at the marble altar rail to get our scapulars. It must have been a part of the ceremony in the 1950s to get scapulars to mark our devotion to Mary.
Perhaps your First Communion wasn’t as long ago as mine. What do you remember about the day? Do you remember a feeling of anticipation over your reception of the Eucharist? Does a particular moment stand out for you? Do you remember anything about the Mass that day? Think back.
When I try to make the connection between my First Communion and that of my grandchildren, I feel a sense of connection and wonder. Just like me, the children are now connected to the family of God in a special way. They “come to the table” and receive Our Lord. They participate in the banquet that is so special to us and so important. It is the life-giving banquet in which we receive Jesus, Our Savior. It is the feast that we carry on from the Last Supper: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). How amazing is that?
One of the responsorial psalms that can be used for First Communion is from Psalm 116. We intone: “Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 10:16). Reflect on what that really means. We are blessed by our reception of the cup, and we are united with Christ in that meaningful act. That is a powerful statement, its significance becoming even stronger as we grow in understanding of it.
In a much more simplistic way, a song titled “Little White Guest” comes to mind as I reflect on what Holy Communion is. Our youth choir learned it.
You have come to my heart, dearest Jesus, I’m holding you close to my breast; I’m telling you over and over, You are welcome, Little White Guest.
As I progress in my spiritual journey, I continue to be in awe of the reception of that “little white guest.” It continues to provide me sustenance as I go about my daily life with its trials, struggles, and moments of jubilation. It is my source of nourishment and joy. It is the gift that allows me to be in union with my God and in union with those around me.
These days, as a catechist in my parish and one who prepares youngsters for First Communion, I reflect often on what the Eucharist means. I teach the children the meaning of the word communion. It means “being together” and “being together in love.” I tell the children that we find love in our families and our friends. I tell them that we can give love to those in need.
I hope they remember that lesson. Years from now, I wonder what they will remember of their First Communion day. It certainly won’t be memories of veils and scapulars. Perhaps it will be of lessons learned and love that was shared. For us today, let us continue to find love in the Eucharist. Like God’s little children, may we find ways to share that love with others. Perhaps we can share it with our own families, the people in our neighborhood, the communicants in our parish, and even the homeless person on the street corner. May we find strength and joy in the Bread of Life so that we can live a life of “Eucharist.”